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Sci Adv. 2019 Apr 12;5(4):eaav7662. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav7662. eCollection 2019 Apr.

Water vapor capturing using an array of traveling liquid beads for desalination and water treatment.

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Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Department of Mathematics, University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Growing concern over the scarcity of freshwater motivates the development of compact and economic vapor capture methods for distributed thermal desalination or harvesting of water. We report a study of water vapor condensation on cold liquid beads traveling down a massive array of vertical cotton threads that act as pseudo-superhydrophilic surfaces. These liquid beads form through intrinsic flow instability and offer localized high-curvature surfaces that enhance vapor diffusion toward the liquid surface, a critical rate-limiting step. As the liquid flow rate increases, the bead spacing decreases, whereas the bead size and speed stay nearly constant. The resulting increase in the spatial bead density leads to mass transfer conductances and hence condensation rates per volume that are almost three times higher than the best reported values. Parallel and contiguous gas flow paths also result in a substantial reduction in gas pressure drop and hence electric fan power consumption.

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